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"Smart people (like smart lawyers) can come up with very good explanations for mistaken points of view."

- Richard P. Feynman, Physicist

"There is a danger in clarity, the danger of over looking the subtleties of truth."

-Alfred North Whitehead

June 13, 2010

The Effectiveness of License Restrictions

Only a couple of strategies that attempt to reduce recidivism of operating while intoxicated offenders have been consistently shown, through scientific studies, to be effective in reducing recidivism rates of OWI offenders—alcohol treatment and license restriction. According to the scientific literature, license restriction, including revocation and suspension (and soon ignition interlocks), is the most effective strategy in reducing repeat OWI offenses.

That may surprise practitioners, as we see many individuals who operate a vehicle regardless of any license restriction. Research has shown that 75 percent of individuals with suspended or revoked licenses continue to drive. However, license restrictions act both as a form of incapacitation--drivers cannot legally drive-- and deterrence--drivers view the loss of a license as a negative reinforcement for intoxicated driving. The license restrictions result in offenders who drive less often and drive more carefully, resulting in fewer alcohol related crashes. Hon, Jeffrey, Finding Common Ground: Improving Highway Safety with More Effective Interventions for Alcohol Problems, The George Washington University Medical Center, 2004; Nichols, James L., H. Lawrence Ross, “The Effectiveness of Legal Sanctions in Dealing with Drinking Drivers”, Alcohol, Drugs, and Driving 6(2):33-55.

Should society be concerned with recent developments where violation of license restriction cases involving convicted OWI defendants are not thought serious enough by some prosecutors to warrant the resources required for prosecution? Will no-prosecution policies on such cases lead to a greater level of illegal driving?

The views expressed in this blog are solely the views of the author(s) and do not represent the views of any other public official or organization.

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